Canonical wants to change how we define “mobile” and “desktop” and even “smartphone”, and, you know, they are spot on with their plans—even if they don’t work out this time.

Ubuntu Edge

As you might have heard, Canonical has launched an Indiegogo campaign to create the Ubuntu Edge “smartphone”, I put the in quotes because this is a device that will have enough oomph under the hood to work as a “desktop” machine when connected to a display. Hmm, a device that you make calls on (it dual boots Android and Ubuntu) then get to your desk, plug an HDMI cable in and—ta-da!—you have a desktop version of Ubuntu to work with.

Sweet.

If Steve Jobs were alive he’d probably be impressed, since this is an idea that has come straight from the revolution he started with the iPhone and bolstered with the iPad. The idea that powerful and usable computing devices don’t need to sit on desks. By extension, then, this can mean—even more so than it does now—that where “work” is can be as flexible as it needs to be.

So beyond the need for the “smartphone Formula One” test bed that Canonical is talking about, what the Ubuntu Edge is really the true start of the post-PC age. Sure the iPhone was amazing. Oh and I don’t need a laptop nearly as much as I once thought with my iPad and a couple handy accessories (a Bluetooth keyboard being number one on the list there—this post is being written on my iPad, of course), but the problem is that neither device is completely a PC.

Oh, that’s fine of course, they aren’t intended to be, but man wouldn’t it be nice to be able to print to any printer or save files or browse a file system? I know Android (and jailbreaks) offer some of these features—to an extent—but what Canonical is talking about is different. The Ubuntu Edge is, truly, the next phase in computing. I don’t know if the Indiegogo campaign will succeed, it doesn’t matter in the great scheme of things, now that the idea and feasibility is out there, it’s only a matter of time before other deeper pockets begin work on the multi-purpose device themselves.

Microsoft failed at the Surface because they tried to create a device that was a tablet and a sorta-kinda desktop experience simultaneously. The trick is to see that when I’m using a tablet on the couch while watching Netflix, I want a completely touch interface. I want, yes, an iPad experience. Now, if I need to slam out a big report or work with my web-based CRM system, I want something that is less touch and more keyboard-mouse based. So, if I connect my tablet to a larger monitor with a keyboard and mouse, I should actually switch to a “desktop mode”. Don’t try to make the mobile UI a faux-desktop or desktop into a faux-touch system, each is different so just switch between modes.

I figure Apple, Samsung, and Google all working on devices that use a mobile OS when the device is being used as a phone or tablet then switch to a desktop OS when in “desktop mode”. When? I’d say already. Why not, the pieces are in place. The tech is coming. All that is really needed are a few more prototypes, maybe a tablet that uses a mobile-desktop hybrid OS, and Canonical getting a few more big backers like Bloomberg